Bikeshares are a really smart idea, so participants obviously know how to use their brains — but they apparently don’t know how to protect them. Helmet use on bikeshare bikes is pretty abysmal — data from Boston’s bikeshare program show that only 30 percent of users wear a helmet. So a group of adorable MIT undergraduates has invented HelmetHub, a vending machine that dispenses bike helmets for $8 a pop. That’s a small price to pay to keep your cranium intact.

The stand-alone HelmetHub units can each hold 12 helmets, which can be dispensed one or more at a time. Once you’re done with your bikeshare ride, you can return the helmet at another HelmetHub location, which you will be capable of doing because you will not have cracked your head open like an egg.

Don’t go thinking this is all pie-in-the-sky student stuff, just because they’re undergrads. The team is being super-proactive about getting HelmetHub implemented across the Boston area and beyond.

Not content with simply creating this innovative safety solution, the MIT students are rolling out an aggressive global business plan for HelmetHub. Beginning with 20 beta testing units in Boston this summer, they plan to sell an additional 500 units to municipalities for installation in 2013. Their 5 year plan calls for 6,200 unit sales. With bikeshare growth currently running at 70% per year I have no doubt that they are well positioned to successfully execute this plan.

The economics seem spot-on too, with break-even being achieved after only 2 years of service per unit.

Forget making helmets cool with tweed hats and what have you — the thing that’s really going to increase bike safety is making helmets easy. HelmetHub seems capable of pulling that off.